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30+ quotes from Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Quotes from Invisible Man

Ralph Ellison ·  581 pages

Rating: (134.5K votes)


“What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“The world is a possibility if only you'll discover it.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“I was never more hated than when I tried to be honest. Or when, even as just now I've tried to articulate exactly what I felt to be the truth. No one was satisfied”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“Power doesn't have to show off. Power is confident, self-assuring, self-starting and self-stopping, self-warming and self-justifying. When you have it, you know it.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“And my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone's way but my own.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“I remember that I'm invisible and walk softly so as not awake the sleeping ones. Sometimes it is best not to awaken them; there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“Perhaps to lose a sense of where you are implies the danger of losing a sense of who you are.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“I do not know if all cops are poets, but I know that all cops carry guns with triggers.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“I was pulled this way and that for longer than I can remember. And my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone's way but my own. I have also been called one thing and then another while no one really wished to hear what I called myself. So after years of trying to adopt the opinions of others I finally rebelled. I am an invisible man.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“For, like almost everyone else in our country, I started out with my share of optimism. I believed in hard work and progress and action, but now, after first being 'for' society and then 'against' it, I assign myself no rank or any limit, and such an attitude is very much against the trend of the times. But my world has become one of infinite possibilities. What a phrase - still it's a good phrase and a good view of life, and a man shouldn't accept any other; that much I've learned underground. Until some gang succeeds in putting the world in a strait jacket, its definition is possibility.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“I feel the need to reaffirm all of it, the whole unhappy territory and all the things loved and unloveable in it, for it is all part of me.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“Whence all this passion towards conformity anyway? Diversity is the word. Let man keep his many parts and you will have no tyrant states. Why, if they follow this conformity business, they'll end up by forcing me, an invisible man, to become white, which is not a color but the lack of one. Must I strive towards colorlessness? But seriously and without snobbery, think of what the world would lose if that should happen. America is woven of many strands. I would recognize them and let it so remain.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“Play the game, but don’t believe in it – that much you owe yourself … Play the game, but raise the ante, my boy. Learn how it operates, learn how you operate.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“America is woven of many strands. I would recognise them and let it so remain. Our fate is to become one, and yet many.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“Please, a definition: A hibernation is a covert preparation for a more overt action.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“And the mind that has conceived a plan of living must never lose sight of the chaos against which that pattern was conceived. That goes for societies as well as for individuals.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“Everywhere I've turned somebody has wanted to sacrifice me for my own good—only /they/ were the ones who benefited. And now we start on the old sacrificial merry-go-round. At what point do we stop?”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“They could laugh at him but they couldn't ignore him”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“Perhaps everyone loved someone; I didn't now, I couldn't give much thought to love; in order to travel far you had to be detached, and I had the long road back to the campus before me.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“The truth is the light and the light is the truth.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“Man's hope can paint a purple picture, can transform a soaring vulture into a noble eagle or moaning dove.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“All it takes to get along in this here man's town is a little shit, grit, and mother-wit.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“I denounce because though implicated and partially responsible, I have been hurt to the point of abysmal pain, hurt to the point of invisibility. And I defend because in spite of it all, I find that I love.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“You're very insistent, but I'm very busy.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


“The clock ticked with empty urgency, as though trying to catch up with the time. In the street a siren howled.”
― Ralph Ellison, quote from Invisible Man


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About the author

Ralph Ellison
Born place: in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, The United States
Born date March 1, 1913
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